This morning’s New York Times has an article about Paula Deen and the black church’s tradition of forgiveness. (Hate the racism, love the racist.)
The article itself is less than newsworthy–it uses the current flap over Deen’s cluelessness as a “hook” for a general discussion of the black church and the theology of forgiveness–but it reminded me of an important difference between Christian and Jewish teachings that I have often pondered. Christians are told to love their neighbors; Jews are taught to “do justice.” In other words, we don’t have to love anyone, but we must treat everyone as we would want to be treated.
No offense to my Christian friends, but doing justice has always seemed a lot easier.
It’s sort of like the First Amendment. I don’t have to like what you have to say, but I do have to let you say it. I don’t have to agree with your ideas, but I do have to agree that you have as much right to express them as I have to express mine. If current behaviors are any indication, it’s hard enough to get people to respect each others’ rights. Love seems to be pushing it.
I mean, let’s be honest. There is no way I’m going to love Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann, and if they knew me, they’d be equally hard-pressed to love me. I realize that, unlike politics, theology isn’t “the art of the possible,” but I’m glad my tradition only requires me to be fair and just. Loving these people is probably beyond me.
I wonder how Christians manage it.
8 thoughts on “Theology and Human Nature”
Well put. Even Jesus, in Matthew 25, did not ask his followers to feel any particular way about their neighbors. He just urged them to treat their neighbors the right way.
As an aside, interesting take in Commonweal on the Catholics on the Supreme Court, and how quickly they seem to have forgotten their own histories. http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/sin-racism-and-supreme-courts-catholic-majority
I like this.
I was taught in seminary that both doing justice and loving one’s neighbor are both rooted deeply in the Pentateuch and reasserted in the Prophets. But, you’re right, Sheila, they are distinct. And, in terms of regard for those beyond our own communities/circles, doing justice is central to the Jewish commitment to “repair the world” (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks).
You’re right to be suspicious of neighbor love. I’m convinced that lots of us Christians say love and try to muster feelings of love for neighbor and do express occasional empathy, but this frequently is too shallow; it rarely goes to a “do justice” or “challenge the unjust policy or system” level, or, in the case of Paula, get a clue.
On the other hand, something powerful occurred in South Africa amid the truth and reconciliation movement after Apartheid. It may not be love, but it seemed to be something beyond justice.
Thanks. What I see from most of the right wing Christians is pure hatred. They don’t even try to sugar coat it any longer. They hate the Pres, They hate Gays, They hate women who stand up to them. They hate and hate and hate. I have no time for them.
“I wonder how Christians manage it.” Poorly..
Isn’t using the terms “theology and human nature” in the same sentence an oxymoron?
And it has always been that way, they especially hate other religions who cut into their monopoly profits.
Forgiveness has always been for the religious leaders once caught doing nasty stuff…most never for the followers, especially followers of another religious cult.
It has always amazed me that a congregation will stand behind their leader no matter what their crime…drugs, prostitution, pedophilia…ect.
It irks me more when a religious politician is caught red handed doing such deeds and all they have to say is, “God has forgiven me”, and all the followers vote for them again. I say this type of politician will not change but will go about being more careful and not get caught.
I spent many years turning the other cheek, not making waves, going along to get along, never speaking my mind and was loved by all who knew me. When I realized I was covertly lying by not speaking out, by not voicing what I believed to be the truth – about everything including “Christianity” – the opinions of everyone who knew me changed drastically. Those who remain as family and friends may not always agree with me but they allow me to think for myself, have my own opinions and always listen to what I have to say as I listen to them. If this is being Jewish in nature, I proudly accept it as part of my Christian nature.
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